“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” – Alexander Hamilton
In a prior piece titled ‘The Monkeysphere Redux‘ I touched on the dangers of centralizing government in a one-size-fits-all manner. I made the argument that government is the best that governs closest to its constituents. In this way, it is most responsive and most accountable to those who lend their consent to be governed. It can address the most pressing needs in a timely and effective manner. Since the inauguration of Joe Biden, we’ve seen an executive branch that has placed a historic emphasis on legislating by executive fiat. In his first 47 days, Biden signed more than 60 executive actions, outpacing his predecessor by more than double. Simultaneously, controversial bills have been pushing their way through Congress with the intent of solidifying electoral malfeasance and usurping constitutional electoral authority for the Feds in HR-1. Similarly controversial gun control legislation regarding universal background checks and weapons restrictions is also being deliberated inside the legislature in HR-8. There is no doubt that both of these measures will pass by a simple majority in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives (they did), but come up against challenges in a split Senate where a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority is required (for now).
As a response to the threats posed by the Federal Legislature, many states are taking matters into their own hands and reforming their electoral and firearms laws at the state level. Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Iowa have all introduced bills to nullify federal gun control laws. Nullification laws have already been passed in states such as Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. And measures to reform electoral law have already been submitted in 23 states. Because the Constitution places plenary authority to administer elections in the hands of the state legislatures, nullification is not necessarily the focal point when it comes to elections so much as buttoning up procedure and loopholes to protect the fidelity of the vote. This division of powers juxtaposing the Federal Government against State governments is what we commonly refer to as federalism, and it is the cure for what ails our growing political divide.
The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution is the strongest defense of the Federalist-style Republic designed by the Founders of this country. It reads as follows:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
In authoring the Constitution, James Madison wrote “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” There is little debate among historians about the intent of the Founders when it comes to a bottom-up system of member states. On near every occasion, they explicitly endorsed this constitutional republic while denouncing democracy. Thomas Jefferson wrote of democracy (it) “is 51% of the people taking away the rights of the other 49%.” John Marshall opined “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.” And John Adams declared “..democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” The Founders could not have been more explicit in the necessity of this division of powers.
This brings us to today. Having viewed systems of governance through a historical lens, the Founders presciently devised a system for a time such as this. In the November 2020 election, Joe Biden managed to simultaneously carry the lowest percentage of US Counties, while also carrying the highest number of votes in US history. An amazing feat for a candidate who never bothered to campaign for office. He won fewer than 17% of US counties, while Donald Trump won greater than 83%. Republicans hold 61 state legislative chambers, while Democrats hold 37. Republicans hold a majority of 27 state congressional delegations while Democrats hold 20. And yet the densely populated urban centers of blue America with a little tomfoolery at the ballot box have commandeered free reign for the time being in Washington. This leaves us with few options but to fall back on the system as designed. Congress should work to find common ground for the benefit of the public. If and when Washington oversteps its authority, it is incumbent upon state governments to collectively tell them to go pound sand.
Photo source: https://unsplash.com/photos/Rr24aBqhq9k